The gift of music gaming may have lost its lustre when it comes to guitars and rock bands, but Riddim Ribbon unwraps inventive new gameplay that puts things back on the beat.
Moving away from the concept of emulating music, it's a rare example of gameplay measured in equal part to musical interaction. Riddim Ribbon ties these two strands together into an alluring bow that holds together a genre in need of something unique.
Innovation doesn't assume perfection, though, and some primping is necessary for this bow to curve in harmony with its ingenious concept.
Put a record on
With headliner the Black Eyed Peas, Riddim Ribbon puts you in control of a spinning ball that rolls along a twisting ribbon of music. Tilting your handset moves the ball left and right with the goal being to keep on top of a thin strand representing the beat.
The ribbon fluctuates in time, so twists and turns are always tuned to the music. Veer off-track and the song deteriorates.
It's not just about keeping the music alive, though. Riddim Ribbon is as much about racing as it is about the music. Point pearls nesting atop the ribbon reward you for staying on the beat and electrified fences require flicking your device forward to jump and preserve your points multiplier.
There are even bonus points to be earned by taking ramps that launch your ball into the air.
Since these are entirely optional, there's a sense that traditional gameplay is a larger part of the experience than is the case with most music games. Rather than being consumed with nailing notes and thumping in tempo, you're thinking about movement in concert with the music.
Of course, music hasn't been sidelined here. Riddim Ribbon cleverly disposes of tired note-hammering musical gameplay and replaces it with a more nuanced mixing mechanic.
Splits in the ribbon provide an opportunity to tweak the music by diverging into one of two remixed versions of the song. Head left and maybe you get a taste of David Guetta's remix of "Boom Boom Pow," whereas going right fires up DJ will.i.am's take.
Switch-ups allow you to customise the music in the simplest way possible. I have concerns about the trickiness of keeping the ball aligned with the ribbon through these transitions, though.
Similarly, the layout of some levels is unfair. As the ribbon gains height, for example, your ability to predict its course is diminished.
Hills block your line of sight and so you're unable to see the course the ribbon takes on the other side. Unsurprisingly, you end up off-track on the other side. Gradual inclines might work, but sharp rises in the ribbon need to be reconsidered.
Added feedback when the ball syncs and departs from the ribbon would also improve gameplay. Better signs to indicate that you're correctly aligned with the ribbon are needed. Tempering the persistent sparkles that appear around the ball so that they only come about when you're synced would work.
Furthermore, vibration when the ball is a significant distance from the ribbon could act like grooves on a highway that let you know you're veering out of the lane. This would complement the audio degeneration and reddening of the ribbon that already occur.
Less of an issue is the music, which puts the spotlight on the Black Eyed Peas. Purchasing Riddim Ribbon nets you three levels built around remixes of "Boom Boom Pow," "Meet Me Halfway," and "I Gotta Feeling."
Three additional dance tracks can be purchased within the game - two from Tiësto and a single from Benny Benassi - yet the available library is limited in terms of musical style.
More levels are planned and there's no reason to discount Riddim Ribbon for its focused release. Nevertheless, it has be made clear that if you're not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas this is going to be a challenging game for you in more ways than one.
As the track list expands and level design improves, the inventiveness of Riddim Ribbon will come through even more clearly. This is one gift that is sure to keep on giving in the months ahead.